Today is National Peanut Brittle Day. Why we call this hard candy “brittle” is a mystery, for it is anything but. Liable to break or shatter easily? Peanut brittle sometimes requires a mallet to break apart into pieces!
OK, I exaggerate. And I have to say, it’s really, really good. Tara’s mom sent us a bunch of treats for Christmas, including homemade brittle. Why we didn’t save a little bit for today is a good question!
Brittles are one of the oldest candies around. When not busy hunting leprechauns or picking four-leaf clovers, the Irish enjoyed eating sugar coated peanuts as snacks. They began adding syrup, and brittle was born. There are many variations around the world. The Greeks have pasteli, the French have croquant, Indians have Gacchac, and Canadians have peanut brittle, eh. In the Middle East it’s made with pistachios, and in Asia, a mixture of sesame seeds and peanuts.
When we began this challenge, I wondered if anybody else had attempted it. I scoured the internet, but could find no similar quest. And then a couple of days ago I stumbled upon a blog in which somebody did, in fact, attempt to do the same thing in 2011. He took a similar approach to us, and I was impressed with his posts, until they ended abruptly in May. I wasn’t sure if he burned out at that point, so I sent him an email, and he was kind enough to respond. The guy’s name is John, he lives twenty miles outside of New York City, and he did in fact complete his own holiday food odyssey – but was stymied by a computer that died and a lack of technological and social media savviness. He has been very supportive of our own attempt, is impressed with this blog, and has been quick to offer tips and advice. He wrote, “From time to time you may get sick of foods or desserts or whatever it may be. But I’m not sensationalizing or exaggerating when I say it changed my life. Food history is an amazing over looking part of history I think. I learned so much about culture and different time periods just be researching these meals. Also, growing up predominantly eating the meals of my grandmother from Italy, I became aware of this whole “American” culture in cuisine. I think you’re going to learn more than you expect.”
Thanks, John! Tara and I have already learned a lot, and feel like our own food horizons are expanding with each day that goes by. If you don’t mind, you can be our official “culinary consultant.” I may have a need for suggestions as we plow our way through the year!
Back to today. We sort of found ourselves scrambling late in the day, because our calendar had erroneously listed National Pistachio Day twice: January 26 AND February 26. So much for the bag of nuts we had sitting on the counter. A quick run to the grocery store yielded no peanut brittle, but Tara had a recipe in her trusty Fannie Farmer cookbook, and whipped together a batch of brittle. Start to finish, it took less than an hour – and turned out very tasty!